What is a Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome?

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome or NAS is a group of problems which occur in a newborn who has been exposed to drugs, while still being a fetus. This is one of the reasons why many medical professionals warn mothers to avoid any kind of drugs while being pregnant. In some cases, using medications is only recommended with medical supervision. The health of your baby should be a priority if you want to avoid long-lasting consequences. So, let’s review the Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, what are the causes and possible treatments?


The Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome happens when a pregnant woman consumes opioids, such as heroin, codeine, methadone and many others. In this case, substances pass through the placenta and as the mother becomes dependent on drugs, so does the baby. If the mother continues using the drugs through the entire pregnancy, upon the delivery, the baby will be addicted to drugs too. There is only one reason for this condition, the baby no longer gets the drugs through mother, and the withdrawal symptoms may occur as the drug slowly clears from the body. Pay attention to medications you are using because certain antidepressants, benzodiazepines, and barbiturates can have the same symptoms on your baby. And, let’s not forget nicotine, amphetamines, cocaine, and marijuana.

Symptoms that can occur

The symptoms of neonatal abstinence syndrome depend on a couple of factors:

The type of drug the mother is using

How the body is handling the drugs

How much was she taking

How long have drugs been in her body

Did she carry out the entire pregnancy or the baby was born prematurely

Withdrawal symptoms can begin three days after birth. If such thing happens, the baby will have to stay in the hospital for further observation and monitoring. The symptoms can include blocky skin, diarrhea, fever, hyperactive reflexes, poor feeding, excessive shaking, and crying.

Exams and tests

helpOn the other hand, many other conditions can produce the similar symptoms. This is one of the reasons why baby needs to go under examination that only health care experts can provide. The mother may be asked about which drugs she used during pregnancy and when is the last time she took them. Also, she will be submitted to a drug test. Two types of tests can confirm the condition, neonatal abstinence syndrome scoring system, which can determine the treatment and toxicology screen of the urine.


Depending on the drug involved and infant’s overall health, the health care team will monitor the baby up to a week after the birth to see the signs of withdrawal, feeding problems and weight gain. Infants who are suffering from a neonatal abstinence syndrome are prone to excessive crying, and they are hard to calm. But, there are a couple of tips, reduce the noise and light, put a baby in the blanket and gently rock him. On the other hand, for a baby who experiences severe symptoms, doctors often include medications to treat withdrawal issues.